No need to panic: The Yankees rotation does not need a marquee upgrade
Remain calm. Everything is going to be okay. Well, at least I think they will.
The Yankees have undergone an almost comical string of injuries to key players in 2019 and yet have still managed to play at such a competitive level that they find themselves just one-half game back of the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. And yet, all I see on fellow blogs, the New York tabloids and Twitter is that this team is a mess and is in urgent need of a top-shelf starting pitcher in order for them to remain in the race over the course of the 2019 season.
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Let me make this unequivocally clear: such takes are nothing but stark overreactions.
The Yankees enter play on Tuesday evening at 24-16 and in firm control of an American League Wild Card spot, not to mention the half game margin that currently keeps them out of the top spot in the AL East. All of this with their two best pitchers currently on the injured list. The team’s preseason ace, Luis Severino, doesn’t have a timetable for return, but lefty James Paxton is due back in just a week or two. All reports this week indicate that he has no lingering pain in his knee.
The quartet of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, JA Happ and Domingo Germán have more than held their own while both Severino and Paxton are on the mend. The injury to Jonathan Loaisiga, although unfortunate, doesn't do much to change the long-term outlook of the rotation with Paxton only expected to miss another start or two at most.
Furthermore, the team’s offense, hampered by its own laundry list of injuries, has kept the team afloat, and gets back its leadoff hitter and starting center fielder, Aaron Hicks, tonight. Giancarlo Stanton isn't all that far behind, nor is shortstop Didi Gregorius. Both could return by mid-to-late June and provide additional firepower to an already potent lineup.
The sexy names you’ll see on an almost daily basis are LHP Dallas Keuchel, formerly of the Houston Astros and currently unsigned, and LHP Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants, a legendary postseason pitcher no doubt, but one that hasn’t exactly gotten back to his dominating self, following a 2017 dirt bike accident. Would either of these two help the Yankees rotation as currently constituted? Sure, but there’s also caveats with each.
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Keuchel is supposedly keeping in baseball shape, but hasn’t undergone a true spring training yet, and even if he were to be signed tomorrow, he’s probably not game-ready until June. Paxton will be back well before then. Per Jon Heyman, the Yankees are supposedly the favorites to sign Keuchel if he holds out until after the draft, where his draft pick attachment goes away, but I'm not sure how much I buy into that report.
With Bumgarner, it’s even trickier. Not only is he just a rental, but he wouldn’t come cheap. Additionally, the Yankees are listed on his current no-trade clause which means he can block a trade to New York or demand a long-term extension in order to accept the deal. With his career trending downwards, that’s not a good investment for the Yankees over the next few years.
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More than likely, the Yankees will do what they always do around the MLB Trade Deadline – that being make a deal for a mid-tier starter (if needed) on a struggling team out of the race and looking to rebuild. Names like Marcus Stroman and Danny Duffy might be in play later this summer.
Most importantly, perhaps, has been the emergence of Domingo Germán as the team’s new ace. Coming into play tonight, Germán leads all of baseball with seven wins, is third in BABIP (.207), 14th in ERA (2.70), eighth in WHIP (0.95), fourth in opponent slugging % (.296) and fifth in opponent OPS (.533). He has been everything and more than the Yankees could have possibly imagined they would get from their Opening Day #5 starter. In fact, I’m not sure the Yankees could have gotten anything more than this out of Luis Severino had he not injured himself in Spring Training.
With all that being considered, I’m not sure the panic and desperation for another starter we see and hear is warranted. With James Paxton due to return before the end of the month, the Yankees again have a lethal one-two punch with him and Germán. Tanaka showed on Mother’s Day that he’s still capable of pitching like an elite starter, outdueling reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell in the process, and Happ has shown signs of turning things around, with good outings in four of his last five starts.
CC Sabathia might be the biggest question mark in this rotation moving forward, but with an elite bullpen behind him as well as Severino and Jordan Montgomery on track to return in August, there’s no shortage of talented arms already on the roster to carry this team to – and through – October baseball. If you consider Severino will be returning from the IL at just about the same time as the Trade Deadline, I'm not sure there's a better pitcher the Yankees could acquire from another team than just getting back their ace from injury. There's your impact pitcher fans are media alike are clamoring for.
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Of course, another injury and all of this changes. And Domingo German will undoubtedly be on an innings limit later in the year, but with the healthy guys already within the organization, as well as those set to return later in the year, the Yankees project to have one of the top Postseason rotations as is. There is no need to panic and blow up the farm, or the payroll, for a luxury – and perhaps unnecessary – starting pitcher.
Article by: Andrew NatalizioFollow @anatalizio0523